The joys of teaching sociology

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Thursday, May 22, 2014


WHEN I entered the college of midwifery as a clinical instructor last June 2013, it never crossed my curious mind that I would be eventually teaching the course “General Sociology & Anthropology” for the benefit of the midwifery students.

I recall three years ago, my parents asked me what I had in mind when I decided to enroll at the graduate school but to take up the Master of Arts in sociology program instead of nursing.

And this question happened to have been habitually echoed by people from the academe and health professions.

Although my reason, which was fuelled by social idealism was to understand society scientifically, I must admit that as I went along the program I found myself rather sharpened intellectually in what would have been an alien field to someone who had been educated and trained in health professions - nursing and midwifery.

I believe that two ways I could best benefit from a graduate education in sociology are: first, to prolifically write articles about health using sociological perspectives in my column; and second, to teach the subject matter to college students.

So there I was facing my laptop writing about health in the social science paradigms.

As I was drawn deeper into the perspectives and theories of sociology, I dreamed and hoped for the day to come that I would be passing the torch of health social science knowledge to others in an academic setting. And so, when a window of opportunity opened, I single-mindedly pursued it until I got the position.

From a man-in-white to a health sociologist, that is what I have become, or at least to my students.

My first class was composed of 20 young and promising would-be midwives who were all women. Demographically speaking, more than half of them must have belonged to the socio-economically disadvantaged families considering the fact that I work for a local government-run academic institution.

And being such, I knew they would not have much difficulty in understanding social inequality because they experience it in their daily lives (pun, unintended). However, it was a vicious personal stereotype as I was later caught in an unsuspecting surprise: many had embraced the biblical or theological explanations of justifying poverty.

Like any course at the beginning of a term, the instructor introduces the subject matter to the students and how it best fits their academic and professional disciplines. And so I had.

One of the few challenges I had hurdled was presenting to them the interplay of health and society by establishing a clear link among social structures or institutions, culture and health behaviors.

And so, I realized the magnitude of people who cannot accept the socio-behavioral side of any disease even in an academic setting. The majority of the average-thinking minds limit their perception of health to the biomedical models that explain pathology at the molecular, genetic and physiological levels.

What most people refuse to accept is the fact that even health and disease states have socio-behavioral bases that influence health behaviors, health risks and perceptions.

At the macro level, social inequality and poverty, which are sociological in nature, can explain why people who have the resources tend to be healthier than people who are under the poverty belt.

A good number of literatures could also support the claim that there is an association between low socioeconomic status and mental disorders.

My teaching of sociology to these types of audience, I believe, is instrumental to the breakdown of these ‘old walls’ of thinking and replace them with new ideas that include the sociological dimensions in health.

Most importantly, being a healthcare professional majoring in sociology has placed me in the best position to teach and train future midwives on becoming ‘culturally competent’ healthcare professionals.

As I went on with my class, I made use of varied teaching techniques which included film analyses; article readings and critiquing; and ‘ethnomethodology’ (a form of research) aside from the traditional lectures with the goal of making them fall in love with sociology and appreciate its impact on health.

As the summer term nears end, I could only wish that my students had opened their eyes to greater social realities that not only affect health but also shape the kind of society they live in.

For this golden opportunity, I would like to thank my dean, Dr. Daisy Colleen Young-Mercado and our college president, Dr. Rolado D. Acoriba, Jr.

[Email: polo.journalist@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 23, 2014.

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